When done right some of the best films that come out are those based on real life and usually from the most unexpected sources. The latest The Butler comes from Precious director Lee Daniels who brings along an amazing cast including Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, Terrance Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lenny Kravitz, Robin Williams, John Cusack, James Marsden, Live Schreiber, Alan Rickman, and Jane Fonda, but does the film pack the emotional and important punch that the trailers lead you to believe?
The Butler follows a man’s life as he becomes a white house butler and serves eight presidents during his tenure through the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events that not only affect his life, but his family, and American. This movie had everything it needed to deliver a brilliant film and does not disappoint. Forest Whitaker has already more than proven himself as a great actor and once again he delivers an amazing performance with not only the varying emotions he is required to express, or not express, but also with the various stages of this man’s age. The rest of the cast while a lot of them are pretty much just glorified, but important cameos may not have much to do, but they still seem to be really getting into their parts to make them effective as though they were the stars. This is something rarely seen and can affect the overall experience, but here is executed perfectly. This is a powerful story that is not just about the racial injustices throughout history, civil rights or history, but also a deeply emotional story of a man and his family as they struggle through these events in their own ways and try to make changes for the better. On one hand you have Whitaker’s character trying to make a life for his family and on the other you have his misunderstood son who wants change for the world. Neither understands what the other is standing for, yet both wanting the same thing in the bigger picture.
The story is structured in a way that it feeds you a ton of information but never feels rushed. They could have easily got lost in the history of it all, but intelligently took just enough time with each historical moment and let the importance of how it affected history feature how it affected him personally and those around him. His growth as a character made each of these moments that much more effective and showcased the slow change in both him and his son in conjunction to bring their lives full circle alongside history itself. The other thing that really stood out is the direction of each president. They seemingly tried to portray them accurately to their beliefs and never tried to hide those that stood for or against segregation, but instead just as they played it. These are all important moments in this aspect of history and needs to be heard and understood. Whether you like him or not as a President, the election of Obama was an important moment in this story and kudos for the inclusion in such a way to point that out and bring it all together.
This is an amazing movie that is sure to touch those that allow it too. There are sure to be those that oppose some of the political moments depicted in this film as well as other aspects of the film, but that is just another sign of the ignorance of some people. This isn’t what some may call a “black” film, but an important story about how far our country has come in acceptance and a reminder as too how far we still have to go. The brilliance of this film is not in question, but instead how many people will watch it and receive the important message it delivers and allow it to change them. It’s already proven a success at the box office, now it’s time to place your bets for how many Oscar nominations it will receive.